Artist Bill Morrison rediscovers cinematic obscurities from the British Film Institute and other archives and reworks them into dazzling experimental films. His most famous is Decasia (2002), a hypnotic feature composed of clips from decaying nitrate films. REDCAT surveys Morrison's work on Monday, with a program including three shorts: The Film of Her (1996), comprised of archival Library of Congress footage edited into a tale of an erotically obsessed film archivist; Outerborough (2005), an 1899 film of a Brooklyn Bridge trolley rendered in split-screen, so it's seen simultaneously coming and going; and 2010's Release, in which Morrison applies a mirror effect to footage of crowds gathered for Al Capone's 1930 release from prison.
The evening's highlight is the L.A. premiere of Morrison's wordless, ghostly feature documentary The Miners' Hymns. In Hymns, Morrison artfully weaves together early-20th-century footage of English coal miner life and modern aerial shots of the coal sites transformed into malls, a ski jump and a soccer stadium.
Jóhann Jóhannsson's haunting soundtrack echoes Ligeti's 2001 score, the miners' brass bands in flickering old footage and, in mournful descending fanfares, a minor-key Aaron Copland. Visually, the film feels like a more visceral Metropolis, with the mythical ethereality of Cocteau's Orpheus and the muscular punch of a Lewis Hine photo.
At one point Morrison cuts to a crowd of men like blades of grass, ringed by rippling banners: “UNITED WE STAND.” In fact, united they fell. But the movie about them glows with a sense of the past as endlessly present. —Victoria Ellison
BILL MORRISON: MINERS, BRIDGES, LOST LOVE AND OTHER RETRIEVED TREASURES | Mon., April 23, 8:30 p.m. | Roy and Edna Disney/CALARTS Theater | redcat.org